"How to Build Large Scale Dioramas"

Discussion in 'Dioramas & Displays' started by JohnReid, Jul 7, 2007.

  1. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  2. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    I love this pic!( I know only a modeler could get excited about bricks) Anyway,it gives you a great palette of brick colors to work with and the wall itself is so very interesting.
    I can see an artist getting lost forever in this detail , being able to practice every technique in the book.It will surely be a case of knowing when to stop.By comparison modern brick walls are so very boring.
    I don't yet have any idea of how to achieve that rough cement grout work look but I am working on it.I think my challenge will be to restrain myself and not to make my wall too old looking.
    I love the way Andi builds a history into his brick walls but I wonder if that would be appropriate here.The row houses in my reference picture look fairly new in 1913 and the residents fairly well off ,judging by the way the lady with the dog is dressed and the fact that our early EAA type could even afford all the materials to build his airplane.
    I can hardly wait to start the painting of this piece .It is as close to 2D picture painting that a 3D guy can get....
  3. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    It has occurred to me that maybe I am going down the wrong path here.I am basically trying to represent what was a fairly new building in 1913.I look around my neighborhood at the brick structures after 20-30 or even 50 years and the bricks still look almost new.Maybe it would be a mistake to radically age my brick wall or try to build too much history into it.I love Andi's wonderful work but it may not be appropriate as as an example for which was a fairly new structure in 1913.
    When to stop? What to leave in and what to leave out?
  4. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  5. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    Man I wish I had a camera lens that didn't create so much distortion.Anyway,here is where I am so far.The upper right bricks above the sill are as dark as I plan to go.The lower right is a little lighter and to the left of that lighter still.I have used JoSonja acrylic gouache paint.It is their Gold Oxide straight out of the tube, mixed only with plain tap water to a consistency of 5% milk.You could thin it out to about 2% but that is not necessary here as my base color is quite dark.The key here is to not get too dark too quickly,it is better to err on the side of leaving it too light and then darken individual bricks to the shade you prefer.(like the bricks you see on the left in the pic)You want contrast between individual bricks.I have always worked from light to dark to take advantage of the transparency factor afforded by gouache acrylics.It can be a little time consuming painting individual bricks darker but it saves trying to lighten them later.
    When putting on your first coat be sure to paint the white brick edges that have not been already colored with a small round brush.Don't worry about getting it on the foam board as it has a surface that does not readily absorbed the paint, which is a real advantage here.(saves you having to grout the spaces between the brick) Any space that remains too white can be dealt with by applying a second watery coat.
    The reason that I do the spaces now is if your do it later the edges may turn out too dark and spoil your work.
    Pick a shade of color that you like as your base coat (which will end up being the lightest value on the wall)and randomly darken the rest until you are happy.Don't go too dark right away as acrylics will darken naturally as they dry,much like house paint.In fact I will let mine dry over night and do the finishing touches the following day.
    If you plan to do dry brushing now would be the time to do so,I haven't yet decided myself. I may just weather them by flicking on some crud using my toothbrush technique and then use pastels to finish.So far I am happy with the result,I think that it looks like a 20-30 year old wall.
  6. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  7. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    The grey stone blocks where given the 5% milk treatment using JoSonja gouache acrylic.I used their Nimbus Grey mixed with a touch of Raw Umber and water.I darkened down the seams using the same mix and a small round brush.Try not to get too much on the face of the stone.
    I really like this textured watercolor paper when using thin coats ,as it almost eliminates the need for dry brushing.Remember however one heavy coat and your in trouble.Not all is lost however ,as you can still dry brush the texture back if need be ,using a lighter tint of the same color.This is an example of the great versatility of acrylics.
    The grey stones still need a little pastel shading and some crud along the bottom.

    I would suggest to those who don't want to go to all this effort to make a brick wall ,if you think it looks good enough for your purposes especially in the smaller scales,when I am finished you could make a copy of the wall and then use photobucket to play with the colors and adjust it to any scale you want.Have fun!

    Note: if you want a great tutorial on making scratchbuilt cars or aircraft in brass see my modeling bud Ken Foran's thread over on SMC.He is the best!

    http://www.scalemotorcars.com
    Look under Large Scale Cars in the Forum.
  8. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  9. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  10. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  11. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  12. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    How easy is it to screw up? Let me count the ways.
    I think our brick layer came back to work after a liquid lunch and somehow screwed up the brickwork.I only noticed the following after taking the pics.The two rows of dark colored bricks on the R/H side of the dining room window,are not level with the left.
    The easiest fix would be to make the whole thing three rows instead of two.The other would be to lighten the dark bricks with acrylics but that could lead to problems.Maybe I will try something with pastels.
    The window sills will be only temporarily installed for two reasons,I may in future want to lay the facade flat on its face and two they are too vulnerable to being broken off.
  13. Amazyah

    Amazyah Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2006
    Messages:
    2,544
    Likes Received:
    0
    Great to still see you here John!
    Your work is simply amazing, as always!
    Those bricks are great!
    Yeah, I get excited by brick and especially stone walls.
    I really love the looks of an old stone building!

    Keep up the good work!

    Russell
  14. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    This will make a great backdrop for taking pics.I am planning to do a series of "Public Enemies" vignettes using 1/18th scale cars.I am afraid that the museum won't be getting this diorama for awhile.
    It has taken me a month to build half a wall and am only about 1/5th of the way along.I am hoping that now that the design part is mostly finished things will speed up a bit, however there now will be the boredom factor to contend with now that most of the creative bricklaying stuff is behind me.
    Someone pointed out to me that the blocks/greystones at the foundation are not placed properly.I should have known better, that you never line the vertical seams up one on top of the other, as this only creates a weakness in the foundation.A quick fix would be to re-do the foundation blocks by gluing new block faces over the old ones, which would mean the blocks would not be quite flush with the brick wall.I think that some foundations may have been like this anyway.I will take a look around and see what is out there.I could try hiding it with vegetation etc..but the problem is I know its there.
  15. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  16. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    Now that looks better!I simply glued new faces over the blocks.In fact I think that they look better now as the original blocks were too dark and uniform in color.The irregular look of the blocks along the bottom will be hidden behind the boardwalk.
    Just before I finally install the facade I will get the old pastels out and create a few shadows etc..
    For the next row house I will use a different colors for the brick as well as door and window trim, which will help to make the facades more interesting.I will do the same for the third row house even though only about a 1/4 of it will actually be seen.
    A lot can be done later to breakup any uniformity in the backyards using small additions ,outbuildings and vegetation.
  17. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    I know that some of you guys are asking yourself why does this guy keep on keeping on when he gets so little response to his work?
    Is it the scale? or is the subject matter too far out of the mainstream? lack of interest? etc...
    Well I know that it is none of these.How? By the number of hits I get, not only on the websites but on my photobucket and my photobucket albums.I average 150,000 hits a month on my photobucket and 1,000 album visits as well.
    For some reason things really took off around last March and I still really don't know why.
    The sites that I contribute to are all over the map,RR,car,airplane,figure,ship,diorama, armor and diecast.
    I also understand that what the hell else can you say after making the same comments over and over(usually positive).I also know because of my workload I can't participate much on each of the individual websites but as I said in the beginning my main interest here is in promoting dioramas of all genres.Call it a labor of love I guess.
    A special thanks to all those who have taken the time to express their opinions and comments to me directly, especially those offering their constructive criticism.
    So now it is back to work! Cheers! John.
  18. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    One of the great by-products of doing art is how it makes you much more aware of your surroundings.I mean what is more mundane than a brick wall?
    Really boring stuff right? I know that I never gave it much attention before actually building one.Now I find myself looking at the colors,the designs while driving down the road ,watching TV etc..Not only that but many old brick walls have a history if you look closely enough.Additions and subtractions made over the years.The builder never really being able to match the weathered color of the old brick.Windows and doors walled up which makes you wonder why?Additions of extra stories to a building,weathering,old signs for now non-existent products etc..etc.. There is a lot of our history tied up in brick walls for those who care to read it.
    A lot of what we do as artists/craftsmen is "paying attention" to what has always been there.Most of us never really look at a flower until we come to paint it or an airplane until we come to build it or even a human face until we draw or carve it.
  19. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
  20. JohnReid

    JohnReid Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    0
    Many thanks to Kees(Varese2002) of The Aerodrome forum for the above picture ,which up until now I never knew existed.
    It is a glass negative from the Chicago Daily News and it shows Mr J.E. Mair in his backyard at 3106 W Fullerton Ave Chicago in 1910.There is no record that it ever flew.Evidently the backyard is still there on Google maps.
    Of course like so many other things that have happened to me while building these dioramas, this info has come to me just when I needed it.(strange but true)
    My thoughts have recently been turning to the next step, the landscaping of the backyards.I see from the pic that the backyard is just like I thought it would be ,lots of mud in front and overgrown vegetation in the back.(Who the hell has got the time to worry about things like that when there are much more important things to be done?) Sound familiar?
    I also noticed a smaller version of a boardwalk along the L/H fence line, which if I install it will have to run along the opposite fence due to the positioning of my figure in the composition.
    Mr Mair and I have something in common, his backyard looks like my workshop/studio.Note the angle measuring device laying on the boardwalk's bottom left in the pic, and what looks like a yardstick on the ground under the wing.
    Funny how he just had to install the pilots seat and control wheel even if it now gets in the way.Mr Mair must have sat behind that wheel many times during this build with wonderful dreams of flight running though his head.
    Fifty years later and we were headed for the moon.Thanks Mr Mair.